Reckon a robot could do your job? It’s an unsettling thought, and a real possibility: according to Australia’s Future Workforce report, around 5 million jobs are likely to be automated by 2030. Ouch.
The good news is, there are a few human qualities that robots simply can’t compete with. They’re called ‘soft skills’, and developing yours will not only help supercharge your career now but safeguard it in an increasingly automated world.
“Your soft skills are capabilities such as communication, negotiation, problem-solving and decision-making,” explains career expert Michelle Gibbings. “The term is slightly misleading as it can give the impression that soft skills are easier or less important than technical ones. However, it’s these skills that often make the difference between an average career and a stellar career.”
Take a look at these essential soft skills and see where you can brush up.
It’s a biggie – and for good reason. Strong communication skills not only ensure your message is heard, but increase your ability to negotiate. “If you can’t negotiate, you’ll end up agreeing to things you don’t want to do, and securing less than optimal outcomes,” Michelle says.
We tend to think of communication in terms of being an articulate speaker or talented writer, but it’s important to note that it’s about listening and tuning into non-verbal cues, too, Michelle says.
Action it: To improve your communication skills, take some time to think about what communication styles trigger a reaction in you, Michelle tips. “Getting feedback from colleagues or a coach on your communication style can help you identify improvement areas to focus on,” she adds. One good general rule to follow is to take a beat to relax and breathe before launching into a speech.
When bosses talk about ‘people skills’, this is what they mean – empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and when used effectively, it encourages collaboration, reduces conflict and builds better leaders. “In a complex, changing world, being empathetic helps you understand the different perspectives of people around you,” says Michelle.
Action it: While this trait is often finessed through experience, you can actively improve your empathy by paying attention to your colleagues’ body language while they talk, resisting the urge to interrupt others, and challenging yourself to explore beliefs you don’t agree with.
Got a creative mind? Use it to find solutions to problems and you’ll always be in demand. “As working environments become more complex, being able to problem-solve and work through the best approach to take is critical,” says Michelle. And if you use innovative processes to work through challenges, all the better.
Action it: Creative problem-solving is a skill you can cultivate – Michelle recommends investing in training in critical reasoning and decision-making techniques. And on an everyday level, feed your creativity with curiosity – seek out new ideas and explore your interests, even if they take you beyond your comfort zone.
No, you don’t have to be good at yoga to succeed. This soft skill is about how well you adapt to change. Can you roll with the punches or do you meltdown when an unexpected challenge arises? Are you open to new approaches and ideas or do you believe that your abilities and knowledge are limited? We’ll give you a hint: readiness to accept change and embrace innovation is an asset.
Action it: Developing what’s known as a ‘growth’ mindset will help you ace this skill. It means that you see failure (or change) as a learning opportunity, and acknowledge that effort will lead to achievement. If the thought of change stresses you out, “Practices such as meditation and mindfulness can help because they enable you to be less reactive, and more focused and present,” Michelle adds.
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